So it transpires that my recent article on the temperatures experienced in classrooms across the UK brought up another debate about the power of the two biggest unions in the country for teachers, the NUT and NASUWT.

Their total membership covers some 600,000 people, representing the vast majority of teachers in this country. Perhaps one of the major sticking points in the world of teaching is that of teachers’ pay? Do we actually pay them that much?

The average annual pay for a teacher with the designation of a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) sits at £22,900, depending on where you live (in central London, it can be as high as £32,000 at the top of the scale.)  Compare this to the average graduate salary of £25,500 per year (as recently revealed by the Telegraph) and it immediately brings up a debate about why teachers get a degree and then spend more time and money getting a teaching qualification when they get less money at the end of it?


I mean, with a clueless government in charge of education in this country, I get the impression the future is not looking too bright…

  1. A promise from the government back in June that schools are protected from budget cuts was a little bizarre, given that councils are facing a 20% budget cut when it comes to schools.  How they are meant to improve standards when the money they get from local councils is up in the air.  A couple of year ago, a Scottish report determined that a large percentage of teachers in Scotland were paying for classroom supplies out of their own wallet.

  2. The education system has been reformed and edited by Michael Gove, with significant overhauls in different areas.  It could be these changes are proving unpopular to teachers.

  3. As we’ve already mentioned, we aren’t talking about stunning pay here – less than other types of graduate.

The simple fact is a big motivation to not just train but also to stay is because there is a possibility of getting to the top: the headteacher.  A headteacher at a big inner-London stands to earn up to £112,000.  I guess it could be argued that most people operate in this manner – accept you’re starting off on the bottom rung of the ladder to try and get to the top.

So what are the Unions trying to get for their teachers?  Well, the NASUWT wrote a report in February of this year, where the Chancellor’s decision to freeze teacher’s pay was heavily criticised:  

“Teachers have been subject to a two year pay freeze since September 2011, despite high inflation and cost of living pressures and at a time when average pay awards in the whole economy is 2.5%.”

NASUWT is currently looking to teacher’s pay back at least in line with inflation, which had present stands at a cumulative 11% over the last three years.

Strikes have been threatened if things don’t improve for teachers, with planned walkabouts being staged in the new term.

It does bring about an interesting point, teacher’s pay… A teacher is a graduate of a degree (3-4 years, depending on route) and so perhaps it could be wise to look at their pay compared to other public sector professions where at least a year of training is needed.

  • Doctors – To become a fully-qualified doctor, you’ll need to have studied for a medical degree.  The standard length for a medical degree is around five years, though some universities offer longer courses which include a period of practical experience in a hospital.
    Once you have graduated you become a Foundation Doctor for two years – this is the bridge between your medical degree and specialist training.  In your first year of training as a FD you earn a basic salary of £22,636, rising to £28,076 for your second year of foundation training.  Once you’ve done this you can start your specialty training and earn £30,002.
    So a five year degree and two years of training to get to £30,000.
    From there you’ve two routes for specialties – one is to train in hospital specialties for a minimum of six years.  Once you get there you could be earning nearly £70,000.  Tag on an extra year of training to become a consultant (we’re up to 13 years from being a first year degree student) and you could stand to earn between £75,249 and £101,451 a year.  Not too shabby…
    The alternative specialism is to become a General Practitioner (GP) and train for five years to do so.  At the end of it, you could see a pay packet worth between £54,000 and £82,000.

  • Police –  Whilst you don’t necessarily need a degree to become a police officer, there is a period of training.  To qualify as a full officer, you complete the Initial Police Learning and Development Programme, which leads to the Level 3 Diploma in Policing.  This lasts a total of two years and you will see you pay go from £22,680 to £25,317 in the process.
    From there the pay rises are based on experience and competency – a sergeant stands to earn between £35,000 and £40,000 and a Chief Inspector stands to earn over £50,000.

So when you look at it, could it be considered ‘proportional to the length of time you spend training’?  Getting to be a teacher takes longer than being a police officer, and both are relatively short compared to becoming a doctor.  Perhaps then teachers are underpaid after all.

Look at this way, what if we looked at what you get paid after your training is complete compared to the length of time you studied.

  • A doctor trains to be a consultant for 13 years from start to finish and earns a resulting £101,500 a year.  This works out at just over £7,800 per year.

  • A teacher trains for four years (assume a three year degree and then another year getting the teaching qualification) and gets paid £22,900 – the resulting pay is £5725 for each year they’ve studied or trained.

  • A police officer trains for two years to come out with a £23,000 salary.  This works out at £11,500 for each year of training.  That said, because a police officer has no obligation to obtain a degree first, it would appear that the training period is likely to be significantly lower.

Maybe then, teachers aren’t paid enough – maybe considering they train for four or so years their pay should reflect the length of time spent getting to that stage and the fact that they have graduated with a degree – what is the point of studying for a degree, deciding to teach and then finding you could have gone into any other job and got paid less.

Consider this: in May of this year the Times Educational Supplement reported that teachers in the UK clocked up a total of 325 million hours in overtime, something they are not allowed to claim.  This totals £7bn of unpaid labour, according to the TUC.

£7bn, over 600,000 teachers in the UK is a staggering £11,600 per teacher per year, unpaid!

Considering teachers work roughly 195 days per year, 8 hours a day (in ‘normal’ hours) that’s an hourly rate of £7.44 they’re not allowed to claim, or nearly £300 a week.

I disagree with the notion of such strict proposed limits on temperature in classrooms, that hasn’t changed.  But what I will concede is that somewhere along the line, teachers need to be paid in a manner that reflects the amount of work they really do.  Throw in the fact that they, like many, are graduates in their chosen profession (certainly in state education) and you suddenly have a very compelling argument.

Need teacher?

Did you like this article?

5.00/5, 1 votes


Laura is a Francophile with a passion for literature and linguistics. She also loves skiing, cooking and painting.